Proving that not everything is meant to be taken literally, you’re guaranteed to hear more than funk when the Funk Hunters drop one of their epic sets.
For their appearance at Shambhala in 2014 (captured for posterity on SoundCloud), the Vancouver-based but ever-touring DJ duo of Nick Middleton and Duncan “Dunks” Smith pulled out everything from Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and a juiced-up version of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” to Canadian rap footnote Organized Rhyme’s “Check the O.R.”.
Calling from Austin, where the Funk Hunters have travelled for the South By Southwest festival, Smith says, “I think the funk genre itself is what brought Nick and I together when we started this project, because we both had a love for funky music—funky hip-hop, funky breaks—but we grew up listening to classic rock, old-school hip-hop, and all types of music. So nowadays the funk is what we jell it all together with, and I think we really try to not have too many boundaries when it comes to genres in our sets and in our mixes.”
The duo has also expanded its approach to performance by incorporating live instruments into its shows. Middleton admits that playing with a band presents unique challenges, since he and Smith tend to take a freestyle approach to deejaying, relying heavily on improvisation and the ability to switch gears on the fly.
“We’re never going to have a fully planned-out set when we take to the stage,” he says. “We want to go with the flow and feel the crowd. We might suddenly turn back and yell to them [the musicians] that we’re cutting out the song that they’re about to play on, or we’re suddenly adding in a new song that we weren’t even planning on doing but they know. There’s definitely been some flexibility on both sides.”
The Funk Hunters’ current tour is largely a four-turntable affair with custom visuals, but fans can expect to see appearances by members of the live band. They’ll certainly be seeing plenty of Chali 2na; the Jurassic 5 MC and sometime solo artist is the featured guest on many of the Funk Hunters’ tour dates, including this weekend’s show at the Commodore Ballroom.
“It’s a real mashup of both of our styles,” Middleton explains. “So the set is grounded and rooted in a Funk Hunters set from start to finish, but in the middle of it we do some Chali 2na material. We also do kind of an ode to Jurassic 5 and do some Jurassic 5 material, but then there’s also a lot of new stuff that neither of us have ever done together, some new tunes that we’re writing with him, and some of our original songs that he’s doing some vocal work on top of, as well. So it’s definitely an exciting, new, inspired project for both of us, which has been super cool.
“As a side note, it’s definitely a dream come true for Dunks and I, because we grew up listening to Jurassic 5, so it’s pretty cool to have him on tour with us.”
The Funk Hunters and Chali 2na perform at the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday (March 21).